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CompleteMartialArts.com - Darwin's Blade: A Novel of Suspense

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Manufacturer: HarperTorch
Average Customer Rating: Average rating of 3.0/5Average rating of 3.0/5Average rating of 3.0/5Average rating of 3.0/5Average rating of 3.0/5

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Binding: Mass Market Paperback
Dewey Decimal Number: 813.54
EAN: 9780380789184
ISBN: 0380789183
Label: HarperTorch
Manufacturer: HarperTorch
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 464
Publication Date: 2001-10-01
Publisher: HarperTorch
Release Date: 2001-10-02
Studio: HarperTorch

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Editorial Reviews:

A series of high-speed fatal car wrecks -- accidents that seem. as if they may have been staged -- is leading Darwin Minor down a dangerous road. A reluctantexpert on violent ways to die, he sifts clues from wreckage the way a brilliant coroner extracts damning information from a victim's corpse. But the deeper hedigs, the more enemies he seems to make, and the wider the conspiracy seems to grow. Before long, he'll find himself relying on deadly resources of his own inorder to save his life -- and those of untold others.

Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5
Summary: A real page turner(but only for half the book!)
Comment: I had never read Dan Simmmons before and I was drawn into this novel very quickly. The problem is this book is a lot like the high speed chase that occurs in the story early on, a whole lot of energy and excitement comes to a halt just a bit too quickly.

Darwin Minor makes his living investigating accidents. Be it the space shuttle disaster or a drunk person driving off a cliff, Minor is the best at exposing whatever it was that caused the event. He is also quite hardened by both a stint in Vietnam and his own personal tragedy.

The book opens like gangbusters. Returning from investigating a couple of odd accidents, Minor finds himself being chased by a couple of guys with high-powered rifles. An exciting chase suddenly leads us to the Russian mob, a lawyer turned tv star, corrupt officials, a romantic interest, strange deaths, and even a brief side trip to Vietnam. It is a lot to take in and I was really enjoying it up to about page 200(of 360+ pages).

After that I thought the story slowed down a bit and took some twists and turns I had trouble accepting. Bodies start piling up and you need a program to keep track of the names. There is a helicopter-versus-glider chase which seems lifted from Clive Cussler's (excellent) "Valhalla Rising" airplane chase(not sure which was published first). Finally, there is a shoot-em-up climax that, for me, went a bit over the top. Overall, I felt a great start just never lived up to the promise.

On the plus side, I enjoyed the combination of humor, suspense, and even the theories the author throws in about real-life accidents this country has endured. I would give Mr. Simmons another chance. My belief is if you are a fan of say a Robert Crais or Michael Connelly you might like this author's style. So my overall recommendation is if you haven't read this man before, try something else before sticking your eyes into "Darwin's Blade."

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: Above Average Thriller
Comment: Simmons moves around between genres. I like that. My only problems is that it seems like Marine snipers (e.g., Stephen Hunter) seem to be around a lot lately. Like the technical stuff. Humor is a nice touch.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: Tongue-in-Cheek Romp
Comment: Either you enjoy the joke of this book, or you don't.

"Darwin's Blade" is a thriller very much in the Michael Crichton mode, very similar in style to "Rising Sun" or "Jurassic Park" (which Simmons mentions). The protagonist is an "accident reconstruction specialist," very similar to an M.E. such as Jonathon Kellerman's Alex Delaware, only Dr. Darwin Minor (Ph.D.) reconstructs accidents based on his knowledge of physics; he doesn't solve murders based on his medical degree. And being a thriller, of course the Bad Guys are after Our Hero for reasons that are only gradually revealed over the course of the novel. And it wouldn't be a thriller/mystery if there wasn't a love interest, some scotch, and a little discreet sex.

But anyone who takes this book too seriously is doing themselves a serious disservice. A book that begins with a famously-disproved, urban-legend "Darwin Award-winning" accident where the main character is named "Darwin?" A book where the chapters have puns like "G is for Whiz," or silly jokes like "E is for Ticket?" Where every chapter is alphabetical from A-Z, a la Sue Grafton? Where Harlan Ellison is mentioned by name? Where the main character is an obvious over-the-top Heinlein hero?

It's a romp, a pastiche, a blenderized combination of Kellerman, Chandler (the main character drinks scotch, lives in LA, and plays chess, for crying out loud!), Heinlein, Ellison, Crichton, Grafton, and Steven Hunter's "Point of Impact." This book is a gift to Simmons fans, and to fans of urban legends, mysteries, thrillers, and folks who find this kind of thing funny. I loved it, frankly. I thought it was by turns hilarious, suspenseful, and interesting. Other reviewers obviously hated it. I can completely understand that. It's derivative, juvenile, silly, and absurd. But of course, it seems to me that it's *supposed* to be all of those things, and if you go into it ready to enjoy it for what it is, you'll have a good time. If you're expecting the latest Elmore Leonard or the next "Hyperion," you're going to be vastly disappointed.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5
Summary: Third-rate book from a first-rate writer
Comment: Dan Simmons is an excellent writer, no doubt about it. But this poor effort is so riddled with weak cliché and flat, predictable characters that it's almost painful to get through. (At one point I finally began enjoying it simply for its silliness.

The plots is, well, fine. Nothing special, nothing unique. Bad guys have a plot, good guys are working to uncover it.

But oh, what good guys. Our Hero, Darwin "Dar" Minor, is as close to superman as one can be without having super powers. He's an ex-Marine sniper who's all but perfect with weapons. He's a Vietnam War hero. He's rich, somehow.

He owns a cabin in the woods with all the modern conveniences, including a trap door leading to a secret, bomb-proof storage room that also has its own air supply thanks to a shaft from a nearby gold mine. (No spoilers there; Dar explains that when he gives us a tour.)

He's an expert in literature, the arts, and even liquor. He's an expert pilot, an expert driver, an expert accident reconstructor, and has a Ph.D in physics. He drives the perfect car (which, we learn in the acknowledgements, is what Mr. Simmons drives).

Oh, and he also has a near-photographic memory. At one point, recalling a news story of a murder from several years back, he says, "I remember reading that it was a double tap to the head from a distance of six hundred meters. A newspaper report said that the bullets recovered were 7.62-by-fifty-four-millimeter-rimmed."

Getting beyond the silly protagonist, there's plenty more to be annoyed with. Dar's main job is as an insurance investigator, and the novel is peppered with investigations put there, seemingly, strictly to be funny, as they do little to advance the plot.

Problem: All these investigations are taken straight from a list of cliché urban legends, starting with "man attaches rockets to car and ends up embedded in cliff" (http://www.snopes.com/autos/dream/jato.asp) and including "drunk man shoots self when his phone rings in the middle of the night and he 'answers' his gun."

Simmons didn't even bother to get creative with his insurance-investigator banter. When a few of them are sitting around talking about funny past cases, the ones they claimed to have worked on were taken verbatim from an age-old e-mailed joke list (http://www.snopes.com/humor/lists/insurance.asp).

It's sad that Simmons couldn't even bother (or simply wasn't creative enough) to come up with his own stories and had to lift them from others. But "weak" is par for the course in Darwin's Blade.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5
Summary: Im not too sure any more that Simmons is a very good writer
Comment: This book started off in an interesting manner. It set the stage and introduced us to Dar (short for Darwin) as he travels around from one accident scene to the next. Darwin is a highly sought after specialist who deals with re-creating accident scenes.

To start with, I thought that I could read Simmons happily as he takes his character from one scene to the next and talks about how dumb drivers can be. This is pretty much what you are hit with in the opening pages of the book. The plot doesn't start falling into place until we get around 80 pages into the story. However, that is also when this book starts to fall apart and 'Darwins Blade' becomes excruciatingly poorly written.

I realized that I really didn't want to read a book of Simmons writing accident stories about 200 pages in. By that point you have had Darwin visit a dozen fatal wrecks or ruminate over others and you are sort of sick of him. He is an ultimate nerd with James Bond abilities. After Darwins the target of hit men who go about their work in about as stupid a manner as possible, he is teamed up with a bland two-dimensional female cop named Syd. Syd is pretty much a man poorly crafted into the guise of a female. Watching Simmons trying to turn Syd into a sexy vixen is painful. Syd and Dar dig into who could be responsible for wanting to kill Dar and man, by this point, if you haven't put this book down, you have some blinders on or have a literary hide thicker than mine.

I enjoyed Hyperion a long time ago when it came out. Didn't really enjoy the sequels very much. And this is the first Simmons book I have picked up since then. I don't think I will try this author again for a while at least. You should heed the pretty much universal negative attitude towards this book and skip it.

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